Quick updates

  1. The King is dead.  Bucky went off to freezer camp in late April.  He’d gotten crankier in late middle age and was hassling everyone.  Clovis followed two weeks later.  I will get around to the pictures later this week hopefully.
  2. Life finds a way.  Zuko IV was castrated last fall, but somehow, against all odds, he regrew a testicle.  It’s small, has a bit of scarring, and is totally functional.  Oopsie.  Now he’s a possible candidate for the surprise lambs we thought we might have narrowly averted.
  3. Speaking of which, his dam, Brunhilde, dropped surprise twins Sunday evening while we were enjoying the nice weather.  The likely possibles include her own son and her half-brother.  It’s just a little Wagnerian.  They are a large black ram who is a little slow on the uptake and a vigorous but tiny little brown ewe who is simply adorable.  Pictures also to follow later this week just as hopefully.
  4. Faux Cow fell victim to predation.  Coyotes and black bears have been partying it up in our way way back.  We had gotten her back into good health and she was getting hearty and lanky like her dam, Dottie was in youth.  Oh well.
  5. We have a lot of yard work to do, the grass is going hog wild.  And we discovered the barn is too damp to store feed or pellets in sacks, so we’ll have to switch over to the garage for those.
  6. Icelandic rams are delicious at 4 years of age.  Tough, but flavorful without greasiness or bitterness.  Slow cooking them gives a really delightful repast. Honestly comparable to standard sheep breeds’ 18 month hoggetts. We had butchering help from a friendly local down the road and we sent him off with some mutton, which was turned into burger and was excellent, delicious, great in omelettes.  This made us relax about future slaughters of the older animals as they age.
  7. The kids are really taking to chores and starting to develop the general habit of tidying up before bedtime and after dinner.

That’s all for now.



We have chickens

A friendly acquaintance needed to find their chickens a more rustic home, so we offered to take them since we were wanting to try chickens over ducks this year.  Pictures hopefully this weekend, my husband is working out the final roaming/run area for them.  Right now they are parked in our front yard and getting stirred up by a very silly little big girl.

Speaking of, I might call her Ram Tamer, since that is what she’s done.  Our rams now will stand still for petting due to her valiant and persistent efforts at feeding them by hand.  They are “right” kind of tame, not the kind of tame where you can get head butted (which usually is from roughhousing with lambs too often).


Fast Fleecy update

It looks like I haven’t been posting much to this blog, but that’s because I’ve been updating the fleece sale page.  I am running out of whole fleeces, and will soon be posting raw fiber for sale by the ounce, probably by this weekend.  I am learning a lot about shipping costs, paypal fees and preparation of fleeces to send out to customers.

So anyway, that’s where the latest updates are.  The flock is fine, we still haven’t done breeding yet, but it doesn’t look like we had any accidental breeding either, so we’ll probably take care of that this week.  We have to delay eating the ram lambs until after Christmas unless we get an opportunity to slaughter after Thanksgiving, which is unlikely right now.

Duck Tales: Depressing Duck Math

Though the ducks are laying cheerfully, I did find most of the receipts for the ducks and well, even if we achieved peak production for this month and December (daily laying from the Khakis and the Cayuga finally laying a couple eggs a week this month and next), we’d be in the hole on the ducks by quite a bit.

The waterers endlessly leaking and being super expensive was the problem.  We dropped a lot on waterers designed for indoor poultry, though we didn’t really think that part through when we got them.  So, sucky!  We’ll have to do some kind of hanging thing sometime in the next few weeks and see how that goes.

We spent about $120 on various feeding and watering contraptions, mostly waterers.  The ducks themselves cost $47 and one had to be killed for severe congenital problems.  The first 75lbs of feed was just starter ration to get them to laying age.  We’re now at 120lbs of layer ration used so far.

The starter was about 20 a sack, the layer 14 or so a sack.

Without projecting the additional costs of more feed (we buy layer 80lbs at a time, and in a week or two we’ll be through 160lbs of feed), we can only “earn” about $170 in market value for the eggs this year.  But we’ve spent about $240 all told and have to buy more feed to get them to year-end.  Figuring 80lbs/month, we’ll close the year out having spent about 300 dollars on all costs for the ducks, with a maximum of about 170 dollars in egg value from 4 layers.

And peak laying is 8-9 dozen eggs per month with that many.  Current  market value of a dozen duck eggs is about $7, so each month the ducks would be producing (if all four lay) 56-63 dollars worth of eggs.

If we have to kill the second Cayuga for being a dud, we won’t get to 170 bucks this year and our laying max is 7.5 dozen, or $52.50/month in egg value.

So, even at peak laying, we don’t see a breakeven on the ducks until sometime in March.  Now, doing it this way loads all the expense at once, amortizing the ducks’ purchase price and the equipment over 3 years (reasonable laying lifetime at good high numbers per month) makes that 170 for the year look a lot nicer.

To summarize:

  • All expenses at once– $170-$300= $130 loss at peak laying numbers.
  • Amortizing equipment and animal purchase price over 3 years– $170-$100= $70 profit at peak laying numbers.

We may not get peak laying, I’ll revisit this in January and obviously if I have to kill the Cayuga, I’ll note that as well.

Our labor is negligible, the ducks take a couple minutes a day, even moving the run takes seconds.  I was pretty surprised, it seems longer some days, but 5 minutes is a long duck-tending day.  Water costs are a few dollars annually.  And of course, feed is the biggie.  They eat a variable amount daily, sometimes a quart, sometimes three, they clearly get a lot out of the fresh grass and bugs they have access to.  But right now a safe guess is 80lbs/month, or about $340/yr, rounding a bit.

So right now, next year the ducks would bring in $625-750 in eggs at peak laying, which compares ok with the feed estimate above.

I am less depressed now, yay!

Roaming Rams and Good Neighbors

As I’ve already noted, our rams are really prone to wandering.  They wandered very recently across three neighbors’ land, cheerfully squeezing through metal stranded fencing like they were two little goats.  Under that wool they are lamb-sized, only one is even mature enough to breed our four much mellower ewes.

Our neighbors were really cool about it all, though, and we hastily threw up some cattle panels that night, the only thing that seems to stop their wandering little hooves.  We had been putting them up already, we just have to go faster and order more than we thought this year.  The neighbors mostly couldn’t figure out how they managed to squeeze through with those massive and fabulous fleeces.

Anyway, the moral of all this is that since they have given way more trouble than the goats, we think the goats can live until spring, when the wethers are big and juicy instead of small and tender.  So their wandering ways saved their little buddies, probably.  The goats did push the double stroller over yesterday, so maybe they are still going down this month after all.  /petty, haha.


Duck Math, Lessons Learned

The ducks are past 18 weeks and now laying 1-2 eggs a day, so we don’t have to buy eggs right now and may not have to through winter.  We are ok with moderating our intake to what they lay and next year storing any excess when we get our first full laying year.

The big lesson for us was that at this little homestead level, there is no point in buying ducklings.  It was great to learn how to raise them and go through the basic process, but the cost of starter for just a few ducks is more expensive than buying someone else’s grown ducks who specializes in selling adults.  Freshly hatched from the feed store, each duckling ran us 9-10$.  We could have bought three or four guaranteed laying adult females for 15-25$ each in late spring and already had eggs for months.  And the cash value of a dozen duck eggs is pretty high, so it would have penciled out within a few weeks.

I am not sure it will pencil out this year, it depends on if we start getting 3-4 eggs a day and if the ducks will lay through late fall and early winter.  It is no loss, though, the ducks will have paid for their costs of purchase and feed by spring.

I think it’s just surprising sometimes that there is a justification for letting others specialize even at relatively low levels.  But then again, specialization has always been a part of homesteading, farmsteading and farming.  It’s just hard to remember with the media promotion of mixed-use farming as if it doesn’t also require some specializing.

Farmer’s Market Roundup: Snohomish Farmer’s Market

Today a confluence of circumstances allowed us to go as a family to the nearest local farmer’s market, in the lovely town of Snohomish.  Right near the center of town they have a nice little market each Thursday until October from about 3pm to about 7-8pm, depending on when darkness falls.  We went and wandered and picked up some nice local goods.

Berries and broccoli from a very-local farm whose name is lost to toddler carping: $12.75

Absolutely delicious and enticingly flavored knotweed honey, with a side order of perfectly adequate fireweed honey from the folks at Frontier Flyers Honey: $23 ($12 for the knotweed, and $11 for the fireweed)

Baked treats from a lady’s car, blueberry/peach coffee cake (1) with REAL PEACH PITS for me, the mommums, and chocolate no-bake (2) for my husband and our oldest.  The baby didn’t get any baked treats, but did get the joy of people telling her she was AWESOME for being in an Ergo carrier: $5 total (would have been a bit more, but the lady cut us a break because I got the last coffee cake piece and “It was a small one, two dollars is fine.”

They have a scrip system for using credit cards.  You go to one of the nice old ladies running the market FAQ booth and they will run your credit card for a fixed amount and give you tokens that the vendors can return cash change for.  Pretty handy!  We didn’t go that route, but it’s good to know for another time.  In the meantime, I got printed lists of the farmer’s markets in Snohomish and King counties, which I will probably use to make the rounds this year.  I will dig up my reviews of the mostly King County farmer’s markets I made it to last year and put those up soon enough, but this year, I will focus on Snohomish County.  Should be interesting!

I like farmer’s markets, the vendor selection was very local and pretty solid, a mix of food and tchotkes.  And in a Very Seattle twist, there was stuff like organic homemade dog treats next to the handpopped kettle corn with the stand run by children and handcarved wood bagatelles.  Fun market, will visit again!